In linguistics, a suprafix is a type of affix that adds a suprasegmental pattern (such as tone or stress) to a neutral base in order to convey a derivational or inflectional meaning. For example, a number of African languages express tense / aspect distinctions by tone.[1] The term was suggested by Eugene Nida[2] and taken up in Peter Matthews' influential morphology textbook[3] but is not very widely used. Some linguists prefer superfix, which was introduced by George L. Trager for the stress pattern of a word, which he regarded as a special morpheme that combines and unifies the parts of a word.[4]

In many cases, it is more appropriate to assume that the base has a tone or stress pattern which is replaced by another in inflection or derivation. An example in English is initial-stressed nouns that are derived from verbs with final stress (e.g. prodúce /prəˈdjs/ > próduce /ˈprɒdjs/). Another is the Mandarin hǎo ("to be good") and hào ("to find good"), where the tone changes from low to falling. Some linguists use suprafix for such a suprasegmental change (in fact, Nida himself considered a distinction between additive suprafixes and replacive suprafixes[5]).

See also


  1. Eugene Nida, Morphology: The Descriptive Analysis of Words, 2nd ed., Ann Arbor: University of Michigan Press 1949, p. 63, Problem 46.
  2. Nida, Morphology, p. 69.
  3. P[eter] H. Matthews, Morphology: An Introduction to the Theory of Word-Structure, Cambridge: Cambridge Univ. Press 1974, p. 133
  4. George L. Trager, "Taos I: A language revisited". International Journal of American Linguistics 14(1948), 155–160, p. 157
  5. Nida, Morphology, p. 69, fn. 11.

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